Understanding Apprehended Violence Orders

Intervention Orders are complicated

Intervention order cases are difficult and sensitive matters that often centre around emotionally charged situations between family members or others such as neighbours, stalkers, work colleagues etc. Intervention orders exist to keep people safe and the penalties for breaching them are significant.

How common are Intervention Orders?

Statistics show that across all states and territories in Australia, the number of applications for Intervention Orders are on the rise. In recent years there have even been a number of high profile cases involving intervention orders. One such example occurred in 2010, when actress Rachael Taylor filed for an apprehended domestic violence order against her then partner, Matthew Newton.

So what is an Apprehended Violence Order?

An AVO or Apprehended Violence Order is a court order to protect a person, their children and their property from another person’s behaviour. They are sometimes also referred to as restraining orders or protection orders.  The person who the AVO is for is called the “protected person” and the person the AVO is against is called “the defendant”.

What do AVO’s do?

AVO’s are Court Orders that aim to protect people from others who may be violent toward them, or cause them to fear for their or their children’s safety, or the safety of their possessions. They work by listing things that the defendant must not do such as assault, threaten, harass or intimidate the protected person. These are called conditions of the AVO.

Breaching an AVO

For breaching a Family Violence IVO, you can face up to two years imprisonment and more than $36,000 in fines or both. For breaching a Personal Safety IVO you can also face up to two years imprisonment and over $36,000 in fines or both.

Types of AVOs

There are two types of AVOs. The first is an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO). The second is an Apprehended Personal Violence Order (APVO). Because breaches of domestic violence orders are so common, it is worth starting our discussion with them. But before we begin to understand how these orders work it is worth clarifying what constitutes family violence in the eyes of the law, as it goes beyond merely physical abuse.

What is family violence?

Family violence is harmful behaviour that is used to control, threaten, force or dominate a family member through fear. It includes:

  • Physical abuse, such as hitting or pushing a person
  • Sexual abuse, such as forcing a person to have sex
  • Emotional or psychological abuse, such as controlling who a person can see and when, or calling them names
  • Financial abuse, such as controlling a person’s money without their consent

Family violence is also behaviour that makes a family member fear for the safety of their property, another person or an animal.

If a child is around family violence in any way, they are also protected by the law. This includes if a child:

  • Helps a family member who has been abused
  • Sees damaged property in the family home
  • Is at a family violence incident when the police arrive

More domestic violence incidents are now reported

Greater awareness about domestic violence, and a more targeted approach to dealing with it as a criminal matter means that more incidents than ever before are reported to the police.

According to the Victorian Family Violence Database Volume 5: Eleven Year Trend Analysis (1999–2010) that analyses 11 years of police data, there has been an 82 per cent increase in the number of family violence incidents reported to Victoria Police, from 19,597 incident reports in 1999–2000 to 35,720 incident reports in 2009–10. There are also more intervention orders being taken out than ever before.

What is an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO)?

An ADVO is made where the people involved are related or have had a domestic or intimate relationship. In the case of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, ADVOs can also be made where the people involved are part of the kin or extended family. ADVOs are also available to people who are, or have been, in a dependent care arrangement with another person, including paid carers, and to people living in the same residential facility.

What is an Apprehended Personal Violence Order (APVO)?

The second type of AVO is an Apprehended Personal Violence Order (APVO). This is made where the people involved are not related or do not have a domestic or intimate relationship. This might include people like neighbours or if you are being stalked or intimidated by someone you don’t have an intimate relationship with.

What types of conditions can be put in an AVO?

If an AVO is made, three mandatory conditions are always included. They are that you must not assault or threaten the protected person, stalk, harass or intimidate the protected person or intentionally or recklessly destroy or damage the protected person’s property.

But the court can also make other orders such as prohibiting or restricting you from going near the protected person at all, going near the protected person’s home, work or other premises, going near the protected person within 12 hours after you drink alcohol or use illicit substances, or any other orders deemed necessary for the safety and protection of the protected person.  There is also usually an order preventing you from getting anyone else to do something that you are prohibited from doing.

Types of Orders

There are two types of orders made by the court –interim court orders and final orders.

Interim orders

An interim AVO is a short-term order made by the Court to put protections in place for the victim until a final AVO application can be considered by the Court. Because of the quick need for the interim order, the Respondent or Defendant will not usually be at this hearing.

Final orders

A final AVO can be made by the Court after a defended hearing, if a defendant has been served with the AVO documents but failed to appear in Court, or in cases where both parties consent to the conditions specified in the Order. The duration of a final AVO is specified by the Court and is as long as the Court deems necessary to ensure the safety of the protected person, or 12 months if there is no date specified.

At this hearing The Court looks at the reasons stated in the order including any written statements, any evidence that the protected person or others give in the witness box and any submissions made by either party. During this proceeding, anyone who has made a written statement may be cross-examined about the content f their statements. From here they will decide whether or not to make the final AVO.

Who can apply for an AVO?

You can apply for an AVO if you are aged 16 years or older, you have been the victim of physical or sexual assault, threatened with physical harm, been stalked, harassed or intimidated, and believe that this behaviour will continue.

Is an AVO a criminal charge?

An AVO is not a criminal charge. It is a civil order for your future protection. An AVO sets out specific restrictions on your behaviour, such as how you can interact with the protected person, so that person can feel safe. If the protected person also has children, the order may protect them as well.

What happens if an AVO is made against me?

If an AVO is made against you, you won’t get a criminal record. An AVO does however have the potential to affect things like your future employment and your family law case.

What happens if I breach my AVO?

Breaching an AVO is a criminal offence. You breach an AVO when you knowingly do something that the AVO says you aren’t allowed to do. This is why it is so important to know exactly the conditions of your AVO.

Need help dealing with an AVO?

We are highly skilled at negotiating sensible and practical outcomes that will allow you to get back on track with your life. Call us to discuss how we can help.

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